What it means to be a Christian

Posted Jan. 14, 2011, at 6:02 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 02, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

Several years ago, Katie Couric did a news piece on the working mother, producing all kinds of evidence to support the premise that you can be a fantastic mom, excel at your job, put your kids in day care (because it’s actually good for them), with no guilt involved. I could sense a huge sigh of relief across the land as working mothers felt vindicated. But why do we care?

Some women love to work; good for them. Some women love being stay-at-home moms; good for them. While it’s nice to know our kids aren’t going to be psychologically scarred because we worked or didn’t work, it’s sad and telling that we demand support for our decisions.

Why are we so needy for approval for our fashion choices and lifestyles, when the most important decision of life often is not addressed at all — “What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42).

There appears to be a lot of confusion about what it means to be a Christian. You aren’t born one just because your parents or grandparents are Christians. You don’t become one by being raised in a Christian household, attending church or upholding a certain set of rules and standards. The only way to become a Christian is “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

It’s simple. You either are one because you believe; or you’re not, because you don’t believe. It’s a personal choice, and there’s no riding the fence on this one. To not make a decision is still a decision.

There’s a growing trend focusing on human works and attitudes in an attempt to pre-empt the faith-in-Christ foundation; but anything that cuts Christ out of the equation weakens that foundation, and everything built upon it amounts to “wood, hay, stubble,” as described in 1st Corinthians 3:12.

I recently was perusing a Christian ministry resources catalog in search of choir music. As I made my way through the book selections, a couple of titles and descriptions grabbed my attention because they described Christians as politically conservative, hell-fearing, narrow-minded, judgmental hypocrites. One of them promoted a new Christianity that’s not concerned with commandments and “right” beliefs, but rather concentrates on loving others and loving God.

While I firmly believe politics shouldn’t be part of any theological ideology and concede there are holier-than-thou believers out there who can turn people off the good news of Jesus Christ, I don’t agree that Christians have a fear of hell. Why would they, when they know it’ll never be an option for them?

Loving God and others isn’t new, either. In Matthew 22:37 and 39, Jesus said, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As maturing Christians, the outpouring of God’s love to everyone should be as natural as breathing.

The second book offered a list of 10 things Christians need to believe (and 10 things they don’t) in order to qualify as Christians, and asks, “What’s the least I can believe and still be a Christian?” In this instance the least is the most and it’s just the one: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m amazed there’s a market for these types of books, but with the pervasive negative portrayal of Christians as hellfire-and-damnation-breathing judgmental bullies, it’s not surprising. If this trend continues, it’s easy to understand the statement, “I never would’ve seen it if I hadn’t believed it.” As I walked past a couple of young men in the grocery store, I overheard one of them say, “You know those Bible-beating Christian types,” and he laughed as he said it. Was he speaking from personal experience, or parroting the current worldview?

It appears there are people who desire to be called Christians, but want to exclude the faith-in-Christ requirement. They’re satisfied being purveyors of good will toward all, content to focus on spreading love and tolerance. What’s wrong with this?

The Apostle Paul warned of such a trend in 2nd Timothy 4:3-4, “For there is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth, but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear. They won’t listen to what the Bible says but will blithely follow their own misguided ideas” (Living Bible).

Seems like that time is now. The world is clamoring for a kinder, gentler, no-faith-involved Christianity. Do we as believers buy into that mind-set?

We shouldn’t be swayed by anyone’s opinions that seek to redefine Christianity. Our focus should be on Christ’s definition of Christianity. His Word is the exclusive authority on what being a Christian is all about. Read any good books of the Bible lately?

Brenda J. Norris is assistant Sunday school leader and choir director at the West Lubec Methodist Church. She may be reached at bdnreligion@bangordailynews.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.

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